This beautiful, modern and well designed pass is situated just north of the small town of Stutterheim on the national N6 highway. The pass derives its name from the small fort and telegraph office built in 1878 towards the end of the 9th (and last) Frontier War, and which was named after General Sir Arthur Cunynghame, commander of the British forces in South Africa from 1874 to 1879. The pass presents magnificent views over the forests which abound in the area, holds no apparent dangers, and can be driven in any vehicle.
Kommandonek is located on the tarred R26 road between the small Eastern Free State towns of Fouriesburg and Ficksburg. Although it traverses an area that is sprinkled with spectacular sandstone mountains, the pass itself is not particularly impressive, being only 4 kilometres long and with a height gain of only 77 metres. The R26 has a notoriously bad reputation for the numerous potholes which plague sections of this road, but the pass can be driven in any vehicle. The name of the pass is no doubt derived from the frenetic military activity in this region during the 2nd Anglo-Boer War.
Cole's Pass was considered in it's day to be quite a serious road and contains three minor passes within its 21,6 km length, but with the excellent modern engineering methods having smoothed out the gradients and improved the banking and width, today the name of Cole's Pass has fallen into disuse as offialdom no longer consider it worthy of being called a pass. In essence, the road connects the Houw Hoek Pass in the east with Sir Lowry's Pass in the west and forms part of the N2 highway. The road traverses lovely mountainous scenery, dotted with apple orchards, forests, dams and rivers, but this is a very busy highway, so drivers will need to keep their eyes on the road.
Like Sir Lowry's Pass, this pass was also named after Sir Galbraith Lowry Cole. He served as brigadier-general in Sicily and commanded the 1st Brigade at the Battle of Maida on the 4 July 1806. In 1808 he was promoted to major-general, to lieutenant-general in 1813 and full general in 1830. He was colonel of the 27th Foot, commanded the 4th Division in the Peninsular War under Wellington, and was wounded at the Battle of Albuera in which he played a decisive part. He was also wounded, much more seriously, at Salamanca. For having served with distinction in the battles of Maida, Albuhera, Salamanca, Vittoria, Pyrenees, Nivelle, Orthez and Toulouse, he received the Army Gold Cross with four clasps.
He was appointed 2nd Governor of Mauritius from 1823 to 1828. He left in 1828 to take up the post of Governor of the Cape Colony which position he filled until 1833. Cole was invested as a Knight Grand Cross, Order of the Bath on 2 January 1815.
Martjie Se Nek is a gravel road pass situated near Vaalwater in the Limpopo province. The road is wide and in good condition for most of the pass, but there are sections that have been heavily damaged by water runoff, necessitating the use of a high clearance vehicle, although a 4x4 would not be required. The clay surface of the road is badly corrugated, and would become treacherous in wet weather. The views from the flat section near the summit towards the south are magnificent, and provide a seemingly never-ending vista over the plains below the escarpment.
Brown’s Cutting is an obscure gravel road pass situated in the north-western corner of Limpopo province near Vaalwater, quite close to the Botswana border. It presents a challenge in that it is difficult to find, and will test your orienteering skills and sense of direction to the limit, particularly from the northern side. Although the pass itself is not very difficult to negotiate, the approach roads can be tricky, and some offroad driving experience would be helpful. You will need to be a dedicated pass-chaser to tick this one off your bucket list!
Ezzey’s Pass, also sometimes called Ezzey’s Cutting, is located on the tarred R38 road between Barberton and Kaapmuiden. This part of the Lowveld has a rich history in more ways than one, and the area is dotted with gold mines, ghost towns, and constant reminders of its past. Although the pass holds few apparent dangers, we strongly recommend that you drive this road without exceeding the speed limit, as there have been a number of serious accidents on this section. The road is narrow, with many blind corners, so keep a sharp lookout for other cars and trucks, motorcycles, pedestrians, and animals. The pass is 10,4 km long and contains 23 bends, curves and corners. Take it slowly and enjoy the scenery.
This scenic tarred pass connects the lovely riverside town of Bonnievale with the R60 a few kilometres to the east of Ashton. Its a fairly short pass at 3 km and gains 94m in altitude, producing an average gradient of 1:32. There are five relatively easy curves and bends along the pass as it meanders up towards the neck and summit called Skilpadshoogte, which translates into Tortoise Heights. The steepest section is the final 600m on the southern side of the summit where the gradient ramps up to a stiff 1:7
A pass is usually defined as “a break in a mountain range or other high obstruction, used for transportation from one side to the other”. Perskedraai does not even come close to this definition, as it consists of one long curve on what is essentially a flat section of land, yet multiple sources list it as an official pass. The name, which translates as “Peach Corner”, is most likely derived from the many peach orchards in the area. The pass is situated on the tarred R509 road between the two small villages of Derby and Koster and is 3.6 kms long, gaining just 16 metres in height. It is suitable for any type of vehicle (including bicycles!).
The N4 is a national highway that stretches across the entire northern section of South Africa, from the Botswana border in the west, through Pretoria, to the Mozambique border in the east. Astonishingly, there are only four official passes on this road, and Magatasnek is the only one located on the western half. The pass lies just to the west of Rustenburg.
The N4 is heavily tolled, and has a reputation as a dangerous road, in particular the section between Brits and Rustenburg, where there is only a single lane in each direction for much of this route. Impatient motorists tend to overtake slow moving traffic without any regard for the road markings and signs, resulting in a number of injuries and fatalities.
Geyersnek is located approximately 18 kms to the south-west of the small town of Swartruggens, in the North West province. The pass is named after Hendrik Frederick Christiaan Geyer (1884 – 1964) of the farm Rietfontein, and is situated on an obscure public road to nowhere, the D1065. The road surface is gravel (red clay) but is usually in a reasonable condition.
Although in dry weather a 4x4 would not be required, a high clearance vehicle is strongly recommended to drive this pass. The scenery around Geyersnek and on the approach roads is spectacular and lush, with rolling pastures and game farms in every direction, and is a nature photographer’s dream, particularly in spring or summer.
Mountain Passes South Africa is a website dedicated to the research, documentation, photographing and filming of the mountain passes of South Africa.
Passes are classified according to provinces and feature a text description, Fact File including GPS data, a fully interactive dual-view map and a narrated YouTube video.
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